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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Five Year Old orangutan saved from life as a pet

For the second time within the space of one month, the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) in West Kalimantan, Conservation Area Section 1 (SKW) Ketapang, worked together with the IAR Indonesia team to save an orangutan being kept as a pet in Senduruhan Village, Hulu Sungai District, Ketapang, in October.

The orangutan, named Kukur by his owner, was being kept in a hut in the middle of the woods and lived together with the family and their other domesticated animals such as dogs, pigs, and chickens. The man claimed to have found Kukur in the forest while he was farming.  He said he felt sorry for the orangutan and so brought him home and kept him as a pet. He kept him tied up by a rope around his neck and fed him on rice and other human food like instant noodles and coffee, as well as fruit.

The IAR Indonesia medical team who took part in the rescue found old wounds on Kukur’s neck and ankles. The vet estimated the orangutan to be five years old.

The team transported Kukur to the IAR Indonesia centre in the village of Sungai Awan in Ketapang District. The centre has all the facilities required for the care and rehabilitation of orangutans. At the centre Kukur will go through an eight week quarantine period during which he will also undergo further regular, thorough medical examinations to ensure that he isn’t harbouring any diseases that could be transmitted to other orangutans at the centre.

In the past eight months, since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Natural Resources Conservation Agency of West Kalimantan, (BKSDA Kalbar), together with IAR Indonesia, has saved seven orangutans. The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the local community has been significant. And the negative impact on the economy has brought a renewed threat to nature. People have been severely affected by the lack of jobs and income, causing them to return to illegal activities that are damaging to wildlife and the natural environment, such as poaching, illegal mining and illegal logging.

“We have seen an increase in activities in the forest,” said Karmele L Sanchez, Programme Director of IAR Indonesia. “In a couple of areas, people have been hit very hard and have been forced to take up activities that threaten the natural habitat and its wildlife."

The general consensus of the scientific community is that one of the factors that can lead to a pandemic is the pressure of human beings on the natural world. On the Ministry of Health website, it is claimed that 60% of human diseases are known to originate from animals and 75% of diseases attacking humans in the last three decades are derived from animals. Factors leading to an increase in the risk of zoonoses include the disruption of the balance of nature, changes in the status of land, an unhealthy relationship between humans and wild animals, particularly the wildlife trade, as well as the disruption to wildlife habitats.

“The more we disrupt the force of nature, the higher the risk of disease transmission from animals to humans, as well as the emergence of a pandemic such as the one we are currently experiencing,” Karmele Llano added.

“The risk of zoonotic diseases is not to be taken lightly. As we know, the Covid-19 virus has come from animals. If human beings continue to have contact with wild animals, we face the threat of more zoonotic diseases and pandemics in future.”

"One way to avoid future pandemics is to maintain the balance of natural ecosystems by not trading in wildlife or keeping wild animals in captivity. Hunting in any case is unsustainable and could lead to the total extinction of species in the wild. This problem is now of even greater importance because it is no longer just an issue of species conservation or animal welfare but an issue of global human health," she explained.

As part of IAR Indonesia’s ongoing efforts to reduce cases of wildlife being kept in captivity, as well as to raise awareness and increase understanding of the need to protect animals in the wild to prevent the spread of zoonoses, IAR Indonesia fielded an education team in a number of areas, including the District of Hulu River. "We hope our efforts will help people learn to use nature sustainably in order to maintain the health of society, of the environment and of wildlife and achieve a balance of the entire ecosystem with the concept of One Health, " Karmele Llano Sanchez concluded.